Ain’t Released Me Yet
Memoirs of a REMF
Copyright© 2016 by Robert B. Martin, IV
All Rights Reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopy, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without express written permission from the copyright owner, except for the use of brief quotations in a book review or scholarly journal. I have attempted to recreate events, locales, and conversations from my memories of them.
Christmas and the New Year
“We should declare war on North Vietnam. We could pave the whole country and put parking strips on it, and be home by Christmas.”.........Ronald Reagan
The first draft lottery was held on Monday, December 1, 1969. I was glad when my younger brother’s number didn’t come up. Mine didn’t come up either, but I was already in the Army. The holiday season was fast approaching and it would be my first Christmas away from home. I wasn’t looking forward to it.
The enemy attacked Camp Eagle with 122mm rockets on December 3, 1969, just to let us know they were still out there and to make us run to the bunkers. In December, I was promoted to SP4 (Specialist 4th Class). Two promotions in five months wasn’t too bad. I was also awarded the Army Commendation Medal (ARCOM) for Meritorious Service that month. It was my first “I Was There” medal, meaning that I had made it through my first five months in Vietnam without receiving an Article 15 or getting myself killed.
The cold rains continued into December and on Thursday, December 18, 1969, I wrote home. “I’m beginning to think the sun will never shine again. I just don’t see how it can rain almost continuously for six months, but it sure has a good start.”
I celebrated Christmas Eve with my hooch-mates. We had two small artificial Christmas trees. One had apparently received very rough treatment during shipping and as a result bore an uncanny resemblance to Charlie Brown’s Christmas tree. We placed the two close together, hoping the combination would look better than either tree alone. We opened what presents we had and shared Christmas “goodies” that had come in “care packages” from home. Roger pulled out a bottle of “Christmas Cheer” he had been saving and passed it around. It was as good as it was going to get, given where we were.
All combat operations were suspended by the U.S. high command for 24 hours on December 24, 1969. Hopefully the VC and NVA would reciprocate. On Christmas Day, I attended the Bob Hope Christmas Show at Camp Eagle. Bob brought along Neil Armstrong (first man on the moon), Connie Stevens, Miss World, Les Brown and his Band of Renown, and as I mentioned in a letter home, a “Chinook full of good-looking girls.” The Camp Eagle audience was estimated at 18,500 troops. Hope joked about Camp Eagle, saying, “In my honor, they changed it to Camp Chicken. I’m under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Sanders. Hope the enemy doesn’t find out I’m finger-lickin’ good.”
On New Year’s Eve, I listened to the Peach Bowl on AFVN radio, and on New Year’s Day another 24-hour suspension of combat operations was announced.
The year was ending on a sad note. 9,414 American soldiers had been killed and 70,126 wounded in 1969. It wasn’t a very Merry Christmas or Happy New Year for them, their family, or friends.
Continued in Chapter 39, Entertainment.…